Smith v. Wisconsin Mutual Insurance Company

369 Wis. 2d 244, 880 N.W.2d 183 (2016)

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Smith v. Wisconsin Mutual Insurance Company

Wisconsin Court of Appeals
369 Wis. 2d 244, 880 N.W.2d 183 (2016)

Facts

Thomas and Cary Smith (plaintiffs) owned an 11-year-old dog that was attacked by their neighbors’ (defendants) larger dog. As a result of the attack, the Smiths incurred over $12,000 in veterinary bills to save the dog’s life. The Smiths then brought suit against their neighbors under the Wisconsin dog-owner liability statute. The statute provided that when an owner had prior notice of the dog’s dangerous nature, a plaintiff could seek to double damages. Thus, the Smiths contended that they were entitled to recover two times the total veterinary expenses. The neighbors’ insurer, Wisconsin Mutual Insurance Company (Wisconsin Mutual) (defendant), sought a declaratory ruling as to the proper measure of damages, and argued that the proper measure was the lesser of the cost of repair or the dog’s pre-attack fair market value. The Smiths argued that family pets are akin to heirlooms, keepsakes, and family pictures that have greater emotional and sentimental value than market value. The circuit court found for Wisconsin Mutual, and the Smiths appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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